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When barracking was bold and beautiful

cricket Updated: Jan 03, 2012 00:17 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
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Long before Nick Hornby captured the witticisms of sports fans, with their liberal usage of the word wanker, from his privileged view at North Bank in Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium, there was the late Stephen Harold Gascoigne, or Yabba (1878-1942), as he’s more famously known.

Take a tour of the SCG and you’ll see cricket and footie (Aussie Rules Football) greats immortalised in bronze with statues capturing them at their most poignant, outside the ground. Inside the ground, there’s just one statue. On the Victor Trumper stand, formerly the Hill in the days when there were green lawns where there are now concrete structures, sits a bronze statue of an old man, leaning forward and uttering his infamous Yabbaisms in a stentorian voice that legend says would put even Stentor, of The Iliad fame with a voice equivalent to fifty men, to shame.

But why does a rabbit-seller have his own statue at one of cricket’s most iconic venues? Yabba, of course, was no ordinary rabbitoh; he was, and with all the noise in cricket grounds these days from advertising slogans to public announcements, probably always will be, the game’s most famous barracker.

Sample some of his more famous quips. England’s captain during the scandalous Bodyline series, Douglas Jardine, was swatting away a persistent fly when he uttered his single most famous witticism, “Leave our flies alone. They’re the only friends you’ve got here.”

His words of encouragement to an errant bowler was, “Your length’s lousy, but you bowl a good width!”

If a batsman was playing slow he knew just what to say, “Send ’em down a piano, see if ’e can play that!”

And if he was slower still, “I wish you were a statue and I were a pigeon.”

Well, now he’s the statue, the only pigeon around is a 6’5 who goes by the name Glenn McGrath. Savvy?